What I do (and how I came to be doing it)

Red Hat is the world’s largest open source software development company. I work for Red Hat on the Open Source and Standards team, doing university outreach.

What this means in practice is that I’m an evangelist, which as an ENFJ I’m very well suited for.  I often speak (at conferences and universities) about the importance of open source and why students need to understand it.

Gina Likins

Current headshot

I also work on creating instructional materials, like this, that an instructor can use (hopefully without much modification).  I’m finding this portion of my job to be especially interesting, as I used to be a teacher myself.

That brings us to the roundabout path that I took to get here. I received my BS in Zoology and NC Teacher’s Certification from Duke University and fully intended on becoming a high school science teacher upon graduation.  Unfortunately, the year I graduated was the year NC had a hiring freeze, and there were no full-time jobs teaching high school science to be found. :-(

So back to graduate school I went, this time for a master’s in journalism and mass communication from UNC-CH (I figure if I get a doctorate it will have to be from NCSU so that I can round out the Triangle).

After finishing my master’s I started in public relations with a firm specializing in high-tech, scientific and research clients.  The ability to “speak science” and write halfway decently was a huge help in this role, as you can imagine, but I really didn’t love the writing-press-releases part of it.

Luckily, they invented the web right about then [ed note: yeah, I know, it was actually invented earlier, but it became popular enough that people knew what it was around that time and that worked out to be almost the same thing].  The web turned out to be my perfect marriage of geekdom and working with people.

For the next 18ish years, I did web strategy, for all the permutations of web strategy there were.  The first website that I helped create professionally was also the first law firm website in NC, waaaaaay back in 1994. (I was going to try to write this whole thing without dating myself, but I failed.)  I worked for Nortel for 11+ years, doing both internal and external webstuff at different points in time, and when Nortel finally collapsed in on itself, I searched to find somewhere to work where I felt what I did would have meaning.

I ended up at a global women’s reproductive health non-profit (a cause I’m passionate about), where I was responsible for (you guess, this time: internet strategy).  I enjoyed my time there, but the world of non-profits was not ideally suited to my temperament (I’m *feisty*!).

I did love being somewhere that people cared so much about the work, though, and so I was determined to land somewhere like that (but somewhere with a snappier pace).

And that led me to open source and Red Hat.  And here I’m so very happy, even though open source has its challenges — I talk about some of them (and how I think we can solve them) in this video of a keynote presentation I gave at ApacheCon 2015:


I believe that open source — and the principles that drive it — will change the way business is done, not just for companies that develop open source software, like Red Hat, but for everyone.  More and more organizations are realizing that the old, hierarchical, top-down models of the past are neither agile enough nor innovative enough to compete in today’s world.

(That came out way more serious than I intended, but it’s true.)

Topics that I have spoken on:

Open Source

  • “Open Source 101”
  • “Intro to Open Source Licensing”
  • “Moving into the Light: Transitioning from a Closed Organization to an Open One”
  • “Candy or Swag: a Game for Teaching Open Source Principles”
  • “Copyleft & Open Source: the Ethics of Intellectual Property”
  • “Finding a Project & Making Your First Contribution”

Community Dynamics

  • “How to Offend and Insult Your Open Source Community (and how to avoid it)”
  • “Constructive Conflict Resolution”
  • “Nyms & Nickwars: Privacy and Identity on the Internet”
  • “Netiquette: a Look at How to Avoid being ‘Flamed’ and Other Tips for ‘Newbies'”

Open Source in Higher Education

  • “The Difference Free & Open Source Software Can Make in Your School”
  • “Why You Can’t Find New Grads with FOSS Experience”
  • “Want Students Ready to Contribute? Here’s what they should know.”
  • “7 Things You Didn’t Know About University-Level FOSS Education”
  • “Teaching Open Source: Why & How?”
  • “Making it Easy for Professors to Work with Open Source Communities: What We Can Do”

Open Source Hardware & eTextiles

  • “Return of the Blinky Flashy: How to Teach eTextiles”
  • “World of the Blinky Flashy: an Introduction to eTextiles”
  • “Hack Your Hoodie: a Hands-on eTextiles Workshop”
  • “Intro to Paper Circuits”





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